From the Letters to the Editor column in the September 1995 Perspectives
Should the AHA Meet in Georgia?
Michael Bellesiles, September 1995
To the Editor:
The juxtaposition of the two cover pieces in the latest issue of Perspectives was fascinating. The main article reports that the AHA paid $165,682 of its members' funds so that our last annual meeting would not be held in Cincinnati after its voters passed an anti-gay ordinance. Next to that article was a lovely photo of the Swan House, noting that the next AHA conference will be in Atlanta. Have you seen our flag? It is primarily the battle flag of the Confederacy. The Georgia legislature adopted this flag in 1956 to demonstrate its opposition to integration and the civil rights movement and has rejected every effort since to alter this hateful symbol of the state.
I am baffled by the attitude of the AHA. It will not hold its convention in a city that passes an anti gay ordinance but has no problem with a city where the flag of slavery, racism, and terror flies proudly over its buildings and adorns the flagpole in front of the hotel where the next conference will be held. I guess that some forms of bigotry are worth losing a lot of money over, but others can be ignored. If there is an official explanation of this carefully reasoned distinction, I hope that you will publish it in this issue.
Professor Bellesiles asks for an explanation as to why the AHA moved its 1995 meeting out of Cincinnati but did not change its plans to hold the 1996 meeting in Atlanta. First, in regard to the 1995 meeting, the AHA Council acted after it received several hundred requests to move the meeting from members who indicated their discomfort at the possible discriminatory effects of the Cincinnati referendum; the Council received no such requests from members concerned about Atlanta. Second, the AHA policy on convention sites, adopted by the AHA Council in January 1994 and published on page 16 of the February 1994 issue of Perspectives, prevents the Association from meeting in cities where members might suffer discrimination; the policy does not apply in cases in which symbolic reminders of past wrongs are the sole source of members' discomfort. The Council will continue to monitor and review this policy and welcomes comments from members.